Pakistan military lifts roadblocks in militants' stronghold
Pakistan's military has removed all roadblocks in the stronghold of local Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud to open the troubled South Wazristan tribal district to rest of the country amid a proposed peace deal, a news report said on Sunday.
Pamphlets were distributed on Saturday in the area on behalf of the security forces, declaring that the road access was being restored to facilitate the local population and to return to normality, the English-language newspaper Dawn said, the dpa reported.
Mehsud, who is held responsible for a string of bombings, mostly suicide attacks, in the country since last August, also ordered his followers on Wednesday to halt their militant activities.
Though the peace accord between the government and the Mehsud tribesmen is yet to be signed, the troops are observing a ceasefire after clearing the area of insurgents, the pamphlets read.
They also asked the people to fulfil their responsibility by ridding South Waziristan of militants.
Waziristan, which shares borders with Afghanistan, is considered to be a safe haven for insurgents having links with Taliban fighters and al-Qaeda terrorist organization.
Militants in the rugged mountain area reportedly orchestrate and mount cross-border attacks on the international forces and Afghan military.
The process of reconciling with the hard-line tribesmen restarted after a change in government in the wake of February 18 vote that was overwhelmingly won by opponents of President Pervez Musharraf, a frontline ally of the United States in its war on terror.
Nationalists, who formed the government in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) that adjoins the tribal belt, have expressed their firm resolve to pursue peace talks with the militants to put an end to the violence.
Meanwhile, addressing the participants of a management course in the eastern city of Lahore on Saturday, Musharraf said foreigners, particularly Uzbeks and Afghans, were hiding in the tribal region.
"A major threat is the spread of Talibanisation from the tribal areas to Swat and souther parts of the NWFP," Musharraf said.
He stressed that the development process in Pakistan was being hampered by growing extremism, which was needed to be tackled through a long-term strategy.